You can?t help but feel a little leery, picking up a pickup in the middle of a snowstorm.
But I knew I wouldn?t have to worry about anything at the wheel of a four-wheel-drive Ram, surefooted on big 20-inch wheels clad with winter season mud & snow tires and backed up by a long list of standard driver-assisting technologies.
These included four-wheel disc ABS braking with Brake Assist, an Electronic Stability Control system, traction control, a Brake-lock Differential system (BLDS) designed to brake wheel spin, Electronic Roll Mitigation, Rain Brake Support, Ready-Alert Braking, Trailer Sway Control and Hill Start system to name just a few. My tester even came with a load of snow in the back bucket for a little added rear ballast, always a good touch.
The Ram I was driving traces its ancestry back through a storied history, stretching back over four generations and for more than 30 years, actually more than 30 years if we were to include previous generations of the earlier Dodge D series pickups.
The Ram lineup has evolved over those years. A long slate of major revisions was unveiled just last year for 2013 models – a new 3.6-litre V6 base engine (305 hp, 269 lb/ft), a new eight-speed automatic transmission, a new available air suspension system and a new Uconnect infotainment system along with other technologies, new styling touches and improved refinements inside and out.
For 2014, Ram offers a few further tweaks, a few new colours and, most importantly, another new engine – a 3.0-litre EcoDiesel (240 hp, 420 lb/ft) boasting stump-pulling bottom-end power and a fuel efficiency rating of 10.2/7.1L/100km (city/hwy).
With the brand new diesel just now coming to market, I had to plumb a different pool of power for this test, namely Ram?s award-winning 5.7-litre Hemi V8 (395 hp, 407 lb/ft). The big V8 takes a more traditional, and boisterous, approach to pulling power, offering customers the dynamic duo of trailer-towing muscle and instant acceleration.
Of course, there?s a price to pay for that much moxy. And the pump penalty comes in the form of a 14.6/9.8L/100km (city/hwy) fuel economy rating. Chrysler Canada recommends midgrade (89) octane for best performance but this motor manages just fine on regular fuel.
And the big Hemi does its best to mitigate fuel usage with variable valve timing and Fuel Saver Technology (running on just four cylinders under light cruising demand) and with the eight-speed automatic transmission. But, even so, my real world fuel economy average still worked out to 17.5L/100km (comb).
Although, to be fair, that did include some heavy slogging through a couple of days of heavy snow.
Along with the three different powertrain options, Ram offers a wide range of other choices to cover every possible demand in the competitive full-size pickup truck segment, including 10 different trim levels, Regular Cab, Quad Cab and Crew Cab configurations, 4X2 or 4X4 drive layouts, varying rear axle ratio choices, two transfer cases, wheelbase lengths that stretch from 120-inch to 140-inch and 149-inch sizes, cargo beds available in 5?7?, 6?4? or 8? sizes, and a long list of options, accessories and personalization packages.
As tested here, our Ram came in a two-tone contrasting combo of Silver and Deep Cherry Red, and in a Crew Cab configuration that boasts more passenger room inside than in many full-size cars.
All that ample elbow room was handsomely dressed in upscale Laramie trim, leather-wrapped in this case with optional Canyon Brown premium cowhide, embossed with the Laramie logo and tautly stretched over heated and ventilated front seats – a 10-way memory power bucket driver?s seat and a six-way power passenger seat.
Along with deep console storage, the Ram features big door pockets and twin glove boxes.
The folding 60/40 heated rear seat allows storage underneath and valuables can be hidden away in second-row in-floor storage bins. Other standard items on this tester included remote keyless entry, automatic headlamps, a tilt/telescopic heated and leather-wrapped steering wheel with buttons to control audio, info, connectivity and shifting, a Uconnect 8.4-inch touchscreen infotainment system and 9-speaker Alpine audio system with subwoofer.
And, lest we forget this is a truck, after all, the pickup beds in all models feature a locking, removable tailgate with lift assist and, in this case, our test vehicle also included a spray-in bedliner ($525). Customers can opt for a tri-fold soft tonneau cover ($450) and the RamBox cargo management system ($1,195) with integrated weatherproof bins, integrated rails with four adjustable cleats and a dual-purpose bed divider/extender.
I could go on and on about the very un-truck-like smooth ride of this Ram, courtesy of the optional Active Level Four Corner air suspension system, the smooth electric-powered steering, the new-for-2014 Parksense Front/Rear park assist system complemented by the ParkView rear backup camera and a host of other handling technologies and interior niceties, all wrapped up in a dynamic exterior package that is a modern interpretation of big rig design, stance and attitude.
But I think you get the idea.
With those three powertrain choices, the empty box hobbyists and everyday commuters can easily settle for the 3.6-litre V6 while owners who work their trucks can opt for the heavier duty capabilities of the 5.7-litre Hemi V8 ($1,000) or the 3.0-litre turbodiesel (up to $5,500, depending on trim level).
And with that wide range of trim levels and configurations to cover every other customer demand, from professional duties to recreational sport and towing, the Ram offers an excellent range of competitive choices as it continues to upgrade with complementary new technologies, new features and new capabilities for discerning pickup fans.
Ram 1500 Laramie Crew Cab 4X4 2014 At A Glance
BODY STYLE: Full size pickup, five-passenger Crew Cab
DRIVE METHOD: front-engine, 4X4
ENGINE: 5.7-litre Hemi V8 (395 hp, 407 lb/ft)
FUEL ECONOMY: 14.6/9.8L/100km (city/hwy)
TOW RATING: As tested 3,515 kg
PRICE: Ram 1500 Laramie Crew Cab 4X4 $52,195. As tested $59,985 including option packages, fees and $1,695 destination charge
WEB SITE: www.ramtruck.ca